Like a millennial Jimmy Stewart, magician/mentalist Gary Ferrar employs a disarming stammer and easygoing performance style to draw the audience into his world as he cleverly deconstructs the traditions of illusionism. As promised by its title, though, the show isn’t merely about pulling the curtain back to reveal how the tricks are done. Even that trope is turned on its head as Ferrar keeps us guessing as to what pull out of his sleeve next.

For example, in the middle of a tutorial on misdirection, an audience member seemingly  stays one step ahead of Ferrar’s prestidigitation – only to look down and discover his watch is missing. In the extra-sensory portion of the show, Ferrar feigns deep concentration as he divines a specific details about a complete stranger’s life with devastating accuracy. But is this brilliant mentalism, or has Gary merely checked her Facebook feed?  There are many such shell games in NOTHING HERE IS REAL. And just as we think we’ve got it all figured out, objects appear as if commanded purely by thought, sleight-of-hand takes us by surprise, and we’re back to feeling that sense of wonder that keeps audiences, even in the age of smart phones, fascinated by parlor magic.

As Ferrar shares his own personal details (delivered with sincerity whether real or concocted) and breaks down our inhibitions with audience participation games, lines between performer and spectator begin to blur. The result is a pleasantly co-conspiratorial atmosphere: refreshingly lighthearted and different from say, the more hushed and eerie mentalism of Steven Cohen’s CHAMBER MAGIC.

There are times when the magician’s grip on the audience begins to slacken. Some of the bits take a longer time to build than seems necessary, or don’t pack quite the wow factor they might. Thankfully, though, Ferrar’s thought-provoking and playful machinations hit more often than they miss, and his unassuming charm and fresh spin on a classic form make NHIR an evening – for real – well spent.

NOTHING HERE IS REAL continues on select Tuesdays at Oxbow Tavern, 240 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10023. Tickets:

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